This past week, TIME launched its fourth annual “word banishment poll” — an ostensibly light-hearted exercise in which readers are encouraged to vote on a word/phrase that they think should be banned from use in 2015 (past winners being OMG, YOLO and twerk).
Among the 11 options on this year’s chopping block: “bae,” “basic,” “om nom nom nom,” “I can’t even,” “obvi,” “literally” — and “feminist.”
Did you notice that one of these words is not like the others? BECAUSE I SURE AS SHIT DID.
To help its voters reach a decision, TIME offered a short blurb on each option. Here’s the helpful (read: stupid) explanation for the decision to include “feminist”: “You have nothing against feminism itself, but when did it become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them, like some politician declaring a party? Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.”
OMG I LITERALLY CAN’T EVEN.
Seriously, though, given how much WTF is crammed into one paragraph, it’s hard to know where to begin.
How about the fact that this blurb starts in the exact same way as pretty much every racist, sexist, homophobic and/or bigoted-in-some-other-way pontification: “I’ve got nothing against [insert group identity here] but why do “they” have to [be so angry/complain so much/kiss in public/hold a parade/etc. etc.]?”
Yo TIME, if you have nothing against feminism, why are you proposing that we ban all mention of it?
And how about the bizarre suggestion that declaring oneself a feminist is like a politician declaring a party and that this is somehow a bad thing? Because contrary to TIME’s assumption, I actually really like it when politicians and other people (be they celebrities or boring old normies) declare their political biases. It helps me decide who to vote for/develop crushes on/hang out with at parties.
And what to make of the fact that, as evidence of “celebrities stating their position on whether this word applies to them,” TIME chose to link to stories about Salma Hayek (yes), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (no) and Shailene Woodley (no, and also: who?). Like, if you’re going to go there, the clear choice would be to reference Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. Obvi.
Fun fact: the Beyoncé story to which I just linked is also courtesy of TIME. Here’s a quote from it:
It’s what’s behind the word that matters, of course. Empty branding won’t change policy (and, yes, we need policy change). But there is power in language, too.
INDEED, THERE IS POWER IN LANGUAGE. AND CERTAIN WORDS.
Really though, my favourite part of TIME’s attempt to justify why “feminist” should be banned has to be the admonishment that, “instead of throwing the label around,” we should “stick to the issues.”
STICK TO THE ISSUES, PEOPLE.
Issues, like, let’s see: physical, emotional, sexual, financial and other forms of violence committed by men against girls and women (and particularly against Indigenous girls and women, and girls and women of colour); rape culture; rape apologia; #BeenRapedNeverReported; sexual harassment in the workplace; lack of equal pay between men and women; gender imbalance with respect to unpaid household domestic work; heteronormativism, homophobia and transphobia; body policing; fat shaming; the diet industry; objectification in advertising; the fact that products marketed to women cost more than the same products marketed to men; the beauty industry; the existence of pro-ana and thinspo communities; lack of female representation in politics and in executive boardrooms and on conference panels and really, in almost any socio-cultural sphere you can think of, except for maybe sweat shops and poverty and sexual slavery; rape as a weapon of war; reproductive justice and lack of reproductive health options; the sexualization of young girls; prostitution; the pornography industry; the notion of “women’s roles” as dictated by fundamentalist religions; the lack of good female lead characters in mainstream media; the fact that so many movies fail the Bechdel Test; the lack of female video game creators; the way female comic book characters are drawn; the concept of marriage; the wedding industry; and I could on but you probably get the idea.
GEE I WISH THERE WAS SOME SORT OF LENS THROUGH WHICH ALL OF THESE ISSUES COULD BE CONTEXTUALIZED AND ANALYZED.
GEE I WISH THERE WAS A WAY TO FRAME DISCUSSIONS ABOUT THESE ISSUES THAT WOULD EASILY CONNOTE THAT THEY ARE CONNECTED TO EACH OTHER BY VIRTUE OF EXISTING WITHIN A CERTAIN TYPE OF SOCIO-POLITICAL WORLD ORDER IN WHICH WOMEN ARE SYSTEMATICALLY OPPRESSED AS THE SEX CLASS.
HOW HELPFUL IT WOULD BE IF THERE WAS A WORD THAT A PERSON COULD USE TO SELF-IDENTIFY AS SOMEONE WHO BOTH UNDERSTANDS THIS WORLD ORDER AND IS ACTIVELY WORKING TO DISMANTLE IT.
I mean, Jesus fucking Christ.
Oh, and TIME? Instead of lamenting that feminism is, like, so-overused nowadays — going so far as to propose that it NEVER BE UTTERED AGAIN — how about we talk about how this was the year in which a feminist named Anita Sarkeesian had to cancel a talk at Utah State University after an anonymous threat to perpetuate “the deadliest school shooting in American history” was made by someone claiming to be a student.
A threat written by someone who pledged to “write my manifesto in [Sarkeesian’s] spilled blood” and which contained the sentence: “Feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they’ve wronged.”
A threat that referenced a Canadian mass shooting known as the Montreal Massacre, committed way back in 1989 by a man who claimed that “feminists” had ruined his life (WOW HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED).
A threat that investigators said was “not out of the norm” (!) for Sarkeesian.
Because, until shit like this stops happening, I think we need more talk of feminists, not less.
And now, a postscript: It appears TIME got the message, sort of. Several days after the poll was released and the criticism began rolling in, the following editor’s note was added:
TIME apologizes for the execution of this poll; the word ‘feminist’ should not have been included in a list of words to ban. While we meant to invite debate about some ways the word was used this year, that nuance was lost, and we regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice.
Because equality and justice are debatable things, with valid arguments to be made for and against.
Perhaps TIME should create a poll so its readers can settle things once and for all.